By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia will field two specialist spinners at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) for the first time in a decade when they host West Indies in the dead rubber third test starting on Sunday.
Left-arm orthodox spinner Stephen O’Keefe will play his second test and join off-spinner Nathan Lyon in Australia’s first twin spin attack at the SCG since Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill took on South Africa in 2006.
Paceman Peter Siddle, who has been suffering from an ankle injury, bowled in the nets on Saturday but drops out of the side and will be rested in preparation for February’s two-test series in New Zealand.
“I think the wicket looks a bit dry so I think it’ll take some spin so that was our original thinking,” captain Steve Smith told reporters at the ground on Saturday.
“Peter Siddle’s still a bit sore and he’ll have a rest for a couple of weeks and hopefully get himself right for New Zealand.
“We’re happy with the side with the two spinners and we think it’s going to turn and we’re ready to go.”
O’Keefe, who made his debut against Pakistan in Dubai two years ago, will play his maiden test on home soil at the age of 31.
Smith, once considered a spin-bowling all-rounder and one of the players who have kept O’Keefe out of the test side over the years, said he probably would have been included even if Siddle had been fit to play.
“It was more that it was going to spin,” Smith added. “It’s an opportunity to look at Stephen and see how he goes.
“We’ve got a tour of Sri Lanka coming up where two spinners is a real possibility.
“Nathan Lyon is our number one spinner, I think everyone knows that, and he’s got an opportunity now to become the second spinner.”
Uncapped Victorian paceman Scott Boland would have come into the side for Siddle had the selectors decided to go with a third quick along with Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson.
Australia, who won the first test in Hobart by an innings and 212 runs and the second at Melbourne Cricket Ground last week by 177 runs, are strong favourites to sweep the series 3-0.
Australia: Steve Smith (captain), David Warner, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Adam Voges, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Stephen O’Keefe.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)